Books of Devotion: A Tour of the Hours at Utah State University: The De Villers Book of Hours
The De Villers Book of Hours, fabricated around 1480 C.E. in Northern France, is a prime example of the booming demand for Books of Hours in the growth of the early modern book trade just a few years before the use of the printing press expanded widely across Europe.
Originally, books of hours were highly individualized, with the prayers in each book depending on the request of the patron. However, as the demand for the books increased, their construction grew more regularized. By the fifteenth century, very few books of hours were printed by a single illuminator or scribe and the book-maker's shop turned into something closer to an assembly line than the highly personal and patron-commissioned artisanship of the 1200s.
While the craft was still artisan based, the manufacture of the book segmented into independent areas of expertise. Scribes would write the text out while an entirely separate workshop of illuminators would work on the miniature paintings. All of the necessary components would later be assembled and bound by the book seller. This meant that there were fewer personalized manuscripts with portraits of the individual patrons included in the work.
Over the course of the fifteenth century the price of the Books of Hours lowered, which enabled the growing number of wealthy families, such as the De Villers, to afford them. The ownership of such a manuscript would help to legitimize the wealth and power of the De Villers, a nuveau-riche family of lawyers in Burgundy, France.
On the back flyleaf of the manuscript is a record, of the De Viller family births, baptisms, marriages and deaths between years 1453 and 1622. These “Livres de Raison” were a significant feature in many books of hours as families passed down both their genealogical history and family treasure on to the next generation in the form of a prayer book. The french handwriting on these page originates several years after the book was made, indicating that the De Villers may not have been the first family to own the manuscript, but the provenance is unknown.
"The De Villers Book of Hours" by William Randall, Master's Thesis, Utah State University, 1996
Page written by: Alyssa Matusek and Elisabeth Cropper
Edited by: Elisabeth Cropper and Branson Roskelly